One business in Paris is hinging its success on one unique aspect of biology: Not everything needs sunlight to thrive. The French startup Cycloponics is taking advantage of the 600 hectares of unused parking areas underneath the city by converting some of them into underground farms focused on cultivating organic mushrooms, micro shoots, and endives. After successfully pitching local authorities on their plan to operate underground growing spaces, the company is now producing food for local distribution in what it calls “zero carbon delivery for a greener city.”
As households in the densely populated French capital own fewer cars than they did in the past, the city found itself with an abundance of parking spaces that sat unused. Many were a result of underground car parks built to accommodate flat-dwellers in the 1970s when the city mandated two parking spots per flat, according to a report in the BBC. Cycloponics first converted an unused basement-level car park in Paris’s 18th Arrondissement into an organic urban organic farm, “La Caverne,” in 2017.
Growing mushrooms underground in Paris is nothing new. It started in the early 1800s and stopped at the end of the 19th century with the development of the Paris metro. The last underground mushroom farm in Paris closed over 50 years ago.
Since the creation of “La Caverne,” the company has leased part of its space to local NGOs working to feed the community with locally produced foods, CEO Jean-Noel Gertz told BBC. “We host one NGO who gives 4,000 meals a day to hospital workers,” Gertz said in the report. “We have another company that delivers 500-1,000 packs of vegetables to people in Paris every day. We have logistics and cold rooms, so we have everything start-ups need to feed people.”